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This post, by Nicola Briggs, is part of a series of posts that we call Nicola’s Got Nerve. You may remember Nicola from this incident caught on camera which was viewed by more than 1.5 million people and which sparked outrage from all corners of the globe, bringing street harassment to the forefront of women’s rights issues. We admire’s Nicola’s ability to turn a traumatic event into focused action through writing and activism, and we think you will too.
“It’s not your fault, even if you did nothing.” Many women who have been the target of a sexual attack, whether in the form of public groping, molestation, or rape, have heard this said to them, but find it hard to believe this true statement, because they “didn’t try to get away” during the moment. There are so many valid reasons why this is factual, and must be taken to heart. In many situations, it can be extremely unsafe to act against a predator, which include a fear of aggravating the situation and incurring further harm; but what most survivors of sexual violence don’t know is that their response, freezing in the face of danger, is actually one of the most common and natural responses to a threat.
For example, imagine a herd of impala grazing peacefully by the river. They are alert for danger, but also relaxed and enjoying their afternoon meal. There is a gentle breeze that blows across the river, and on this breeze, mingled with many other smells, they can detect something very familiar, but not exactly reassuring. A few heads look up from their grazing, but they don’t spot anything out of the ordinary, so their heads go back down, concentrating on their meal. This is the moment the cheetah has been waiting for. He charges out of the nearby tall grasses where he’s been hiding and the herd instantly reacts. As one unit, they start racing across the Savannah and the chase is underway. But one young impala trips on a rock, and even though he immediately recovers, that split-second of vulnerability is all the cheetah needs. The young impala tries his utmost to get away, but the cheetah overtakes him at 70 mph and, with one last lunge, brings him down. In the moment either just before or at the moment of first contact between the impala and the cheetah, the prey, the impala, suddenly drops lifelessly to the ground. And he’s not even wounded yet.
So why does this happen? It’s called the “immobility response,” or you might know it as “playing possum.” It’s one of the three ways that reptiles and mammals have to react in the face of overwhelming threat, the other two being fight or flight. All are instinctual efforts at self-preservation. The young impala may be torn limb from limb in the next instant by the cheetah, so “freezing” allows his body and mind to go into another state where they feel no pain during this brutal death. This instinctual “freezing” would also allow him to remain in another state, perhaps while his body was dragged into the cheetah’s den to be consumed later. In which case, he would effectively “wake up” and have a chance to try and escape again.
I’ve used this nature tale to not only illustrate how animals are effortlessly wise, but to validate an often maligned response to danger– freezing– which for many survivors of sexual violence can be a key to surviving the trauma of being attacked. Remember, it’s never your fault, especially if you did nothing. Because you did nothing wrong at all.
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These guys on the bus are threatening a young woman on the bus for seemingly no reason.
I’m Mexican, but I spent 6 months at Bordeaux, France as an international exchange. It was my first time traveling alone, and I arrived really tired. A friend there helped me finding my place (I decided to rent a room at Village 2, Pessac) and everything was perfect, but I wanted to send an e-mail to my family saying I was alright. I discovered the internet wasn’t free, because my iphone couldn’t receive the internet without a password, so I was a little bit sad because I felt alone and not communicated. I decided with little hope to go through the aisle near my room to look for some internet signal and when I passed through the showers I saw a guy. This guy told me if I had any problems and I asked him about the internet, he told me that it wasn’t free, so I said it was ok that I could fix it later, and I said thanks, but he told me he could lend me his laptop to send and e-mail if I wanted to. So I told him it was ok (I really wanted to send my family an e-mail), then he told me he could go to my room with my laptop (I should have been more cautious about this I know, but he was another student, and I thought he would be decent), anyway I said yes and told him the number of my room. Then after some minutes he was on my door , I opened, and left the door opened while talking to him. He gave me his laptop but the internet wasn’t working either, so he told me it should be something wrong, however he didn’t try anymore to fix it , and then I told him it was ok, and that I wanted to rest, but he told me that he could give me a foot massage. I felt really uncomfortable after that, so I get up and told him I was fine and I wanted to be alone, but he got nearer and told me that he could really help me unpacking my clothes and then maybe pass the night with me. So I really became afraid because he started to get really close to me, so I told him to leave me alone, so he was upset and told me that I was afraid, but I shouldn’t be, that every woman in France is like that, so I told him to leave me, and he really didn’t want to. After that I left my room making him leave it to, and then I turned quickly and told him to leave me alone, so I closed the door quickly and couldn’t opened it until the other they in the morning. I felt so scared, was alone at night, and I thought the worst thing, I also felt really bad considering I felt vulnerable and alone, without any friend to call neither any kind of communication, I was alone in an unknown country. I cried that night, and felt horrible. After some nights he came again knocking my room and told me to please talk, but I never answered and asked him to leave, I almost asked to change my room, but then I never saw him again. My international experience got better as I met many persons and I started to feel secure. It wasn’t a good experience as my first night in France, but hopefully everything turned out ok and I really love that city ,and with such good persons , but it is really sad some people like him live in a such lovely place!
I was walking on my way to work when two cars, one after the other, on the same block slowed down to “holler” at me. It took a while to get rid of the first one because i was going along with their conversation so i wouldn’t seem rude since i am new to the neighborhood. They finally left me alone after i explained that i was not interested in hanging out because i had someplace to be.
As they drove away a second car slowed down to follow me and “holler”. I told the guy that someone else had JUST done this to me and that it wasn’t gonna work. He continued by saying that i should take it as a compliment. He was very confused when i told him that it WASN’T flattering. I had to explain that it was scary, intimidating, and annoying for a lady to be followed by men in cars. He thanked me for our exchange by saying “wow I’d never heard a woman’s perspective before!” and he finally drove away.
THIS IS WHY HOLLERING BACK IS SO IMPORTANT. Many harassers have no idea they are being creepy! They think they are being nice and cool! We must stand up for each other and ourselves! I didn’t use to be this brave and I am often frightened by the angry responses post hollerback but I feel so much better doing it than when I walk by and say nothing!
I was walking to the store when these two guys pulled up in there car and start talking to me.
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From the creators at Slampow! Productions:
“Cat calls and wolf whistles shouldn’t be a city girl’s soundtrack. “Meat” is a role reversing comedic short video that parodies raunchy and obscene street harassment experiences felt by women. Although this 3 minute skit is clearly an exageration, it speaks to the absurdity of vocalized objectification.”
Thanks to Nevline Nnaji for making this and sending it to us. You can find more of her work at www.yellokatproductions.com.
BY TANISHA LOVE RAMIREZ
Back to school means back to harassment for 61% of men and 62% of women on college campuses. This year, we’ve decided to poke a little fun at the harassers by developing fake facebook profiles of all the different types of harassers we’ve come to know and hate over the years.
Name: Bump and Grind From Behind
Favorite Quote: “I don’t see nothin’ wrong with a lil’ bump and grind, baby”~By the King of R&Baby-Making R Kelly!
About You: I’m a quiet guy who likes to let my hands and hips do the talking. I’ve got the moves like Jagger.
Political Views: My views are always from behind! Dayum, girl!
Relationship Status: Single, but looking 😉
Work/ Education: B.A. in Anthropology.
(Please note, the pictures are fake too. No dudes were harmed in the making of this spoof).